“Slumdog Millionaire” is a hit across the world, but in India, protesters have taken to the streets to attack the film.
Some Indians find the word “slumdog” in the movie’s title to be insulting to slum-dwellers. More generally, the rags-to-riches romance has been called “poverty porn” for the way it casts a glowing light on a very poor section of Mumbai society and promotes “slum tourism.”
We asked several experts, with experience in India, to tell us what’s behind the protests.
There has been quite a hullabaloo in India (and among Indians living outside the country) over the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”: people accusing it of being poverty porn, or balking at the fact that Danny Boyle, who is British, has created a film about slum life that ignores India’s recent economic prosperity. One of the more outraged complaints has been that the title of the movie is derogatory to people living in the slums.
Slum dwellers, organized by activists like Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, have led protests with placards that read: “Don’t call us dogs” and “I am not a slumdog.” Mr. Vishwakarma claims that referring to people in the slums as dogs has violated their human rights. He even filed a lawsuit demanding that the title of the movie be changed.
One can understand where the unhappiness over the title comes from. In Indian culture, dog — “kutte” in Hindi — has been deemed a derogatory appellation for centuries. It is often used in the excessive rants of Bollywood villains.
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I still have to see the movie!